Category Archives: Senate

Is Sen. Kamala Harris Protecting
Her California Senate Seat?

By Jim Ellis

Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris of California

Dec. 5, 2019 — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the first of what one might consider the top-tier candidates to end her presidential effort, but the announcement timing on Tuesday likely has more to do with her 2022 Senate race than the presidential contest.

The California candidate filing deadline is tomorrow, so Sen. Harris deciding to end her presidential effort means she won’t be on the Golden State presidential primary ballot, and thus avoids an embarrassing loss within her own constituency. Recent polling was forecasting her in the single-digit range even in California.

Obviously, losing any race in one’s home state reveals political weakness, and though she is virtually invulnerable against a Republican in the 2022 general election, the same might not be true if her opponent were a strong Democrat.

Under the California election system that features the jungle primary concept, variations of which are also seen in Washington state and Louisiana, members of the same party can advance into the general election. Florida voters will have the opportunity of adopting that jungle primary concept via ballot initiative next year.

Because California and Washington hold regular primaries before the general election, a pair of candidates always advance irrespective of percentages attained. Conversely, Louisiana holds one election concurrent with the general, meaning a candidate exceeding 50 percent is elected outright; otherwise the top two finishers advance into a December run-off election.

In the California 2022 Senate race, for example, two candidates will move into the general election from their March or June primary (California has continually alternated their primary election dates between the two months, depending upon the political situation at the time the legislature acted) so long as more than one candidate files. Thus, a strong Democrat — and California has many such individuals — could challenge Sen. Harris, draw a relatively meager percentage in the primary while finishing second, and then rally to make a serious general election challenge against her.

Other previous presidential candidates have often found the political going much tougher than expected when returning home to seek re-election after engaging in the national contest, and it remains to be seen if Sen. Harris will find her road to re-election any bumpier.

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Pompeo for Senate?

By Jim Ellis

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Nov. 25, 2019 — Ever since Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced last January that he would retire at the end of the current Congress there has been consistent speculation that US Secretary of State and former Wichita area congressman, Mike Pompeo, would resign his national position and return to Kansas to run for the open seat. Despite repeated denials from Secretary Pompeo, the speculation would not die.

Now, it appears the rumors of him entering the race have greater foundation, as more concrete stories that he will soon resign and announce his candidacy are regularly surfacing. The Senate Republican leadership is clearly in favor of the Pompeo move, originally fearing that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could win a crowded August Republican primary with only a vote plurality and then perform as badly in the general election as he did when he lost the 2018 open governor’s race.

With Republicans holding 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats but having to defend 23 incumbents and open seats on the 2020 Senate election map versus only 12 for the Democrats, the GOP cannot afford an electoral debacle in what should be a safe seat. It was only two years ago that another flawed Republican Senate candidate bungled the Alabama special election, thus allowing Democrat Doug Jones to win the position that Sen. Jeff Sessions had resigned to become US Attorney General.

Currently, eight individuals have announced for the Republican nomination led by Kobach, US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita). Polling and local political intel suggests that Pompeo would have little trouble winning the nomination, and the seat, if he were to enter the race. If he does become a candidate, some of the others, and particularly Rep. Marshall, would have time to exit the race and pivot back toward seeking re-election to their current position.

Originally, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R) had been in the Senate race – in fact, he was the first to enter the contest immediately after Sen. Roberts made public his intentions – but he has already exited and, at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), is now challenging freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) for re-nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.

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Filings & Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 22, 2019 — As we approach the end of this year, two states have already held their 2020 candidate filings and six more will do so in December. This sets the stage for eight statewide primaries in March, four from large states. Mississippi, with a March 10 primary, set its filing deadline for Jan. 10.

In total, and in addition to the presidential campaign, filings during this period in these states have occurred or will occur for six Senate races and 151 US House districts. All five Super Tuesday primary states will host US Senate contests and hold an aggregate of 113 congressional districts.

Alabama and Arkansas have already filed, and the major stories coming from these places as already covered were former US Attorney General and senator, Jeff Sessions, again declaring for his former position and the lone Democrat challenging Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) dropping out of the race just two hours after he had filed. In the pair of states, two House incumbents, Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) and Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro), are totally unopposed in their 2020 campaigns.

The other states heading for December candidate filing deadlines are Illinois on Dec. 2; California, Dec. 6; Texas, Dec. 9; and Ohio, Dec. 11. North Carolina is currently scheduled for Dec. 20, but it is conceivable that the pending redistricting lawsuits could potentially postpone the state primary and thus the qualifying candidate deadline.

The five Super Tuesday (March 3) primary states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas.

Alabama has the first Senate primary and that will likely determine which two of the six major Republican candidates move into an April 14 run-off election. Currently, polling suggests that former Sen. Sessions and Auburn University retired head football coach Tommy Tuberville would advance to a run-off. Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), and former state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 US Senate special election nominee Roy Moore round out the group of main competitors. The eventual nominee will face Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the November campaign.

Two open seat congressional races, both in South Alabama, will almost assuredly go to run-offs, though the eventual Republican nominee in the respective districts will be heavily favored to replace Reps. Byrne and Martha Roby (R-Montgomery), who is retiring.

The March 3 primary is relatively inconsequential in Arkansas since it appears the general election is relatively set. Since the Democrats have no candidate in the Senate race, the party structure will meet to nominate a consensus candidate for a ballot slot in the general election.

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What the First Poll Shows in Alabama With Jeff Sessions Entering Race

By Jim Ellis

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

Nov. 12, 2019 — The Club for Growth organization, the leadership of which had been encouraging former Alabama senator and US attorney general Jeff Sessions (R) to enter the state’s Senate race, conducted and released the first survey since Sessions announced his candidacy on Thursday.

WPA Intelligence administered the survey well before Sessions publicly declared, but just published the results over the weekend. The sampling period was Oct. 29-31, with a respondent universe of 511 likely Alabama Republican primary voters.

The results find Sessions leading the field with 36 percent voting preference. Auburn University former head football coach Tommy Tuberville is second with 23 percent support. The addition of Sessions to the field shows that Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) dropping into a tie for third position with former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore as the two record 11 percent apiece. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, the only current statewide elected official in the race, notches only six percent, and state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) trails the entire field at just two percent.

If this poll is wholly accurate, it means that both Sessions and Tuberville would advance from the March 3 Super Tuesday primary into an April 14 run-off election to determine who will qualify for the general election opposite Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.

Just over two weeks before WPAi went into the field, the Cygnal polling organization tested the race. According to Cygnal (Oct. 10-12; 536 likely Alabama Republican primary voters), Tuberville led Rep. Byrne, 32-18 percent, and the two of them would have advanced into the second round. Secretary Merrill was next with 13 percent and Judge Moore followed with 11 percent, the same level of support that WPAi detected for the latter man when Sessions’ name was included. State Rep. Mooney records a similar one percent in this survey.

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New NC State Poll

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 16, 2019 — A new Meredith College political survey (Sept. 29-Oct. 7; 998 registered North Carolina voters) shows electoral weakness for Sen. Thom Tillis (R) as he seeks a second term next year.

The poll places the first-term US senator in a statistical tie with both of his potential Democratic opponents, state Sen. Erika Smith (D-Gaston) and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham. The large number of uncommitted voters, however, suggests the race could go to either party and will likely break late, similar to many previous North Carolina election results.

According to the Meredith data, Sen. Tillis would tie both Smith and Cunningham with each of the three candidates receiving 33 percent support in all pairings. Obviously, these are not particularly favorable numbers for any incumbent and must be taken more seriously in this instance because of North Carolina’s history of either defeating its senators or seeing them not serve a second term for another reason.

In fact, the only two Tar Heel senators who have been re-elected since 1974 are Jesse Helms (R) and current three-term incumbent Richard Burr (R). During that span, the following senators were no longer in office after one term:

ONE-TERM NORTH CAROLINA SENATORS

  • Robert Morgan (D), 1980 – lost re-election
  • John East (R), 1986 – committed suicide in June before seeking a second term
  • Jim Broyhill (R), 1986 – appointed to fill Sen. East’s term; lost 1986 election)
  • Terry Sanford (D), 1992 – lost re-election
  • Lauch Faircloth (R), 1998 – lost re-election
  • John Edwards (D), 2004 – did not seek a second term to instead run for president
  • Elizabeth Dole (R), 2008 – lost re-election
  • Kay Hagan (D), 2014 – lost re-election

The Meredith College pollsters also tested Gov. Roy Cooper (D) as he fights for a second term likely against Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R). Here, Meredith finds the incumbent holding a 46-33 percent margin over his eventual GOP challenger.

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The Twists & Turns of Replacing
Georgia’s Sen. Johnny Isakson

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2019 — Political chatter about the new Georgia Senate race is becoming prevalent. As we know, last week Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) announced that he will resign at the end of this year due to health problems. A great deal of speculation has occurred since, not only about who will be appointed to succeed the senator, but also who will run in the 2020 special election, and even about the election procedure, itself.

At this point, we know that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will name a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The selected individual will serve throughout 2020 and will likely run in the succeeding special election. The winner then serves the balance of the current term and would be eligible to run for a full six-year stint in the 2022 election.

The special is scheduled somewhat concurrently with the November 2020 general election. It’s possible, however, that the initial Nov. 3 vote will not immediately produce a winner, thus forcing an early January 2021 run-off. The candidates will first run in a jungle primary – that is, all contenders regardless of party designation appearing on the same ballot – and if no one receives a majority vote, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election to be held Jan. 5, 2021.

There is a potential scheduling nuance, however. Since the 2020 candidate filing deadline is March 6 for a May 19 regular primary and July 21 regular run-off, it is highly unlikely that the special election candidates will also file on that particular date. Therefore, if the candidate filing deadlines are different, will that allow individuals to run for an office in the 2020 regular cycle, and then simultaneously appear on the special US Senate election ballot? The question appears to be unanswered right now, and likely won’t be resolved until Gov. Kemp names his appointment and officially sets the election calendar.

The dual office speculation is beginning on the Democratic side because freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) indicated yesterday that she is considering a potential Senate run. It would be assumed that the congresswoman would have to risk her House seat to run in the special, but is such the case? Since she, or anyone else, would already be filed for a race in 2020 before the Senate special filing deadline, does such status disqualify those candidates from entering the latter race?

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Kennedy Crushing it in Massachusetts Polling

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 5, 2019 — A just-released Change Research poll of the Massachusetts electorate (Aug. 25-28; 1,008 registered Massachusetts voters; 808 Massachusetts Democratic primary voters, online) conducted for the Commonwealth Magazine finds Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) jumping out to a large early lead over Sen. Ed Markey if the two were to face each other in next year’s Democratic primary.

The other two announced candidates, author and corporate executive Steve Pemberton and attorney/activist Shannon Liss-Riordan, were also included on the ballot test.

Change finds Rep. Kennedy topping Sen. Markey by a whopping 17 percentage points, 42-25 percent, including those respondents who say they are “leaning” to one of the candidates. Pemberton and Liss-Riordan are trailing badly with seven and five percent support. Rep. Kennedy has not committed to running but did confirm he is considering doing so and filed a Senate campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission. The filing does not necessarily mean the individual is an official candidate, but the act is a typical first step in running for federal office.

The poll was conducted in an online format, and though the sample size is substantial for a state the size of Massachusetts, particularly in a party primary, the true error factor for this type of study tends to be greater than the stated polling margin of error. In this case, the variance is 3.5 percentage points.

The poll does clearly reveal, or perhaps confirm, legitimate political weakness for Sen. Markey. Originally elected to the US House in 1976, Markey has served in Congress ever since. He won a special US Senate election in 2013 when then-Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) resigned to become US Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. Markey was subsequently elected to a full term in 2014 with a 59-36 percent margin in the general election. He faced no primary opposition in ’14.

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